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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  March 10, 2016 2:00pm-4:01pm PST

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happening now, sunshine stakes. the republican hopefuls are just hours away from a critical debate in the campaign. their florida showdown here on cnn comes just days before a winner-take-all primary that could put one candidate on the road to the nomination and could spell the end of the road for another. make or break. marco rubio is losing momentum and trailing in his home state of florida. he regrets his personal attacks on donald trump, so how will he fight back in tonight's debate? and low information. ted cruz is voicing no regrets. he said trump is taking advantage of supporters who he says are angry, not that engaged and have, quote, relatively low
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information. will cruisz keep up the attacks tonight and how will donald trump respond? i'm wolf blitzer inside the debate hall. you're in "the situation room." we're counting down to the cnn republican presidential debate, the final face-off before the crucial tuesday night primaries that include winner-take-all contests here in florida as well as in ohio. our coverage starts three and a half hours from now, opening statements by the candidates follow at 9:00 p.m. eastern. for some candidates, it's now or never. donald trump says if he wins in florida and ohio, in his words, quote, it's over. it probably would be over for senator marco rubio. he insists he'll win here in florida, but polls show him trailing in his home state. one poll shows ohio governor john kasich leading trump in his home state. senator ted cruz, who has won seven states so far, will try to
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convince republicans that he's the only candidate besides trump who can gather enough delegates for the nomination. three other big states hold primaries on tuesday. illinois, missouri and north carolina. hundreds of delegates are up for grabs. the candidates have been checking out the debate hall here at the university of miami and now they're making final preparations. it will be their last chance to impress the voters ahead of tuesday's contest. the stakes couldn't be any higher. we begin our coverage this hour with our senior white house correspondent, jim acosta. jim, first of all, what can we expect tonight? >> wolf, donald trump is expecting a softer debate tonight he says, but he likely won't get one. trump campaign manager corey lewandowski tells me they understand rubio's political life is on the line tonight and that he will be aggressive. a top rubio advisor tells me the florida senator will avoid those personal attacks on trump's tanning methods and hand size, but they still see trump and his
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business record as fair game. so trump university, trump steaks, trump water and so on. trump is predicting that marco rubio is finished in florida, finished in this race and that was his message at his last rally in north carolina. here's what he had to say. >> little marco would say -- i think he's gone, i think he's gone, but who knows. you never know. but marco -- they hate him in florida. i want to tell you, in florida he doesn't show up to vote. they elected a senator and he's got the worst voting record in the last 15, 20 years in the united states senate. what kind of a representative -- who wants to vote for him? i mean if i don't beat marco in florida, because florida is my place, i love florida. >> now, donald trump is looking for a double knockout punch next tuesday on rubio in florida but also on john kasich in ohio. trump is getting more aggressive on kasich, calling him an
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absentee governor. we have not heard attacks like that from donald trump on john kasich up until this point in the campaign. it means he's getting nervous, wolf. >> jim, there was some violence at trump's event. what happened? >> that's right. check out this youtube video of a protester. we can put it up on screen. he was being led out of the rally last night by law enforcement officials. this was last night in fayetteville, north carolina. as the protester is leaving the arena, he is sucker punched by a trump supporter there in the crowd. police in fayetteville say that trump supporter has been arrested and the case is under investigation. we should point out, wolf, trump has dismissed these scuffles. as a matter of fact he did last saturday to me. he's dismissing these scuffles as something that just happens from time to time considering the size of the crowds at these events. the trump campaign always makes an announcement before these rallies get started saying please don't touch the protesters. that obviously did not happen last night. in a statement from the local
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sheriff's department there in fayetteville, the sheriff had choice words for the suspect saying, quote, no one should be subjected to such a cowardly act. it's hard to argue with that, wolf. >> it certainly is. all right, jim acosta, thank you very much. marco rubio has voiced regret for some of his own comments about donald trump, his personal attacks or counter attacks haven't helped at the polls either. let's bring in manu raju. rubio's campaign seems to be in big trouble right now. what do you expect we'll hear from him tonight? >> well, i think you'll hear various messages from marco rubio. one, to remind voters why they actually elected him in 2010. that's what i'm told from senior rubio officials. trying to reconnect to voters and explain his conservative principles, his ideas and some of that lofty rhetoric that we've heard in the past. but watch him to still go pretty aggressively at donald trump and make the case that this is the state that can stop donald trump. what does that mean for marco rubio?
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he's going to say voting for john kasich or voting for ted cruz is effectively a vote for donald trump. in addition to talking about his business record, watch for marco rubio to try to draw out donald trump on policy issues. try to have him fill in the blanks. that's going to be a key thing rubio officials believe have been effective using against donald trump in the past, including the debate that you moderated in houston over the health care issue. those are the types of attacks rubio will launch tonight so he will absolutely be aggressive because they know this is a do-or-die state for marco rubio. >> certainly is. you also cover congress for us where senator rubio has a lot of support from his fellow republican senators. what are you hearing from them? >> yeah, i spent yesterday speaking to a lot of those republican senators, very anxious, wolf. they believe that rubio is probably could go down on tuesday and that could be the end of the road of his campaign. if kasich doesn't win ohio, it's
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the end of the thing for his. on the cruz front they believe he's a true republican, he's very predictable, they know what he'll say. but on trump even though he's unpredictable, at the very least a lot of people believe he can bring out new voters to the polls. i talked to richard burr, a senator from north carolina up for rel-electionre-election, he clear running with donald trump. >> we'll see what happens in north carolina. republican primary there, that's next tuesday as well. joining us now, the national spokeswoman for the trump campaign, katrina pierson. katrina, thanks very much for joining us. i want to start with a little clip from the cnn interview that donald trump did with anderson cooper last night. it's getting a lot of buzz out there. listen to this. >> do you think islam is at war with the west? >> i think islam hates us. there's something -- there's something there that -- there's
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a tremendous hatred there. there's a tremendous hatred. we have to get to the bottom of it. there is an unbelievable hatred of us. >> does he regret saying islam hates us as opposed to radical islam or extremist islam? he basically said islam hates us. >> well, i don't think that he regrets saying it when the perception is the reality when you see thousands of muslims in a room chanting "death to america" in several places. we are talking about islam and you're right, it is radical islamic extremists that do participate in these types of things. but the bigger picture here is we are so controlled by political correctness, we've allowed this propaganda to spread all throughout the country that this is a religion of peace when we see today that countries like britain and france and even germany now and sweden, where they're having a head-on collision with the truth. we have to start talking about this in a broader perspective rather than separating the idea
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because we have a major problem going on in this country, as we are continuing to bring thousands of refugees into this country that we know have been infiltrated by isis. >> but he didn't say some muslims, he didn't say radical muslims. there are 1.6 billion muslims worldwide and many of them, most of them i dare say don't hate the united states, don't hate americans, in fact america has great friends in the muslim world like king abdullah of jordan, for example, a great ally. >> well, right. it does go both ways and you're absolutely right about that. but we also have hundreds of millions in the world who agree with these terrorist sentiments and acts. here in the united states, and i'll point to an article written by ben shapiro in 2014 entitled the myth of the tiny muslim minority, there's tons of statistics in there. a pew research poll of muslims
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in the united states where 13% approved of using violence for jihad and 19% approved of al qaeda. so we have a problem, particularly in the united states, when you have 250,000 to 570,000 muslims here in the united states that sympathize with terrorism, even though they may not be themselves the one to engage. >> but lumping them altogether, that's a problem, katrina. consider the case of kareem rashad sultan khan who was born in new jersey to immigrants, he joined the u.s. army to defend our country, he was killed in iraq in 2007. doesn't donald trump think that -- how can he think all muslims hate the united states, hate americans? >> well, that's not what he said. he was talking about islam specifically. you're absolutely right, there is a difference and he didn't use the differentiation word. but that's exactly what he's talking about. most americans understand that. we know that people in our world in the punditry class and ivory
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towers that make the policy, they want to hear the words that make the difference. but there is a difference between islam and radical islam and some would even argue that there isn't. but the point here is to point out the idea that we have a serious problem that isn't being addressed by the current administration and mr. trump wants to resolve the issue and no other candidate is willing to get out there and take up the fight. >> all right. let's -- i think you'll agree, though, with hindsight he should have said radical islam or extremist islam as opposed to just islam, right? >> well, of course. if he would have said that we wouldn't be having this discussion today. but i'm happy to clarify any time, wolf. >> all right. let's talk about hillary clinton, bernie sanders. they had a debate last night and they were asked bluntly if they believed donald trump is a racist. they didn't say no, but they went on to criticize trump. could this be a major line of attack from either one of these candidates, whoever gets the democratic nomination?
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>> no. i think by the time it gets to november, people are going to be tired of hearing the racist charge and the sexist charge. everyone is tired of hearing that already. anyone who knows mr. trump knows mr. trump isn't a racist. in fact you'd have to be blind to assume that he is at this point. no, i think it's really going to be one of those things. going into the general, highlighting the differences between a trump administration and a clinton or even sanders administration for that matter is really going to show that mr. trump is for the people. there is no political agenda. there are no people to pay back. there isn't wall street or super pacs or anyone else that mr. trump cares about because he is the only candidate that's personally invested in the success or failure in this country. >> katrina, stand by. we have more to discuss, including how donald trump is preparing for tonight's historic debate here on the campus of the university of miami. much more with katrina pierson right after this.
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we're counting down to cnn's republican presidential debate here on the campus of the university of miami tonight. we're back with the national spokeswoman for the trump campaign, katrina pierson. katrina, president obama in his news conference with the canadian prime minister today was asked if his policies over the past seven years have played a role in donald trump's success so far. listen to what the president said. >> i have been blamed by republicans for a lot of things, but being blamed for their primaries and who they're selecting for their party is
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novel. what i'm not going to do is to validate some notion that the republican crack-up that's been taking place is a consequence of actions that i've taken. >> all right, katrina, your reaction. >> well, i think that that's partially right, wolf. i mean we have republicans who are effectively rejecting the republican establishment right now. i mean we have the two people leading who are said to be the political outsiders, and mr. trump is definitely not someone that is on the inside. so what we're seeing on the republican side is less about obama and more about republicans failing to do their jobs to lead their people on their side, whether it's fighting against some of the reforms that this president has put into place or simply capitulating and giving this president everything he's
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asked for. so i think this is really more about the party and less about obama. >> how is donald trump preparing for tonight's debate? >> mr. trump is -- he's definitely -- he's looking forward to tonight, i've got to tell you, and knowing that this is marco rubio's last stand. this is an opportunity for senator cruz to try and capitalize on that as well moving forward. he is definitely keeping up with the news and he's definitely talking to our policy team. we have an amazing policy team. and mr. trump definitely wants to have a good night tonight. i think he's going to have a strong showing. you're going to see that amazing side of him that everyone loves to see, even though we know that there's going to be a dog pile on donald trump, but he's ready, wolf. >> does he want to tone down the debate tonight and not get into an angry back and forth as happened in the last couple debates? >> well, mr. trump always wants to do that. he has always started out that
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way in debates past and it's when he's attacked. he's always said i'm a counter puncher, i'm not going to attack first. yes, i do think you'll see mr. trump come out and just want to talk about his vision and his plans to make america great again. however, if he is attacked, mr. trump will make the decision on how to counter punch just the same. >> so we can expect him to counter punch if he's attacked. >> he might. >> is the campaign right now, as far as you know, katrina, preparing for a possible contested convention in cleveland in july? >> you know, wolf, we are preparing for pretty much anything at this point. you know, we have been subject to all kinds of ridiculous attacks by our own party, by people in our own party who are trying to stop the one candidate that everyone now understands can bring in blue collar democrats, that can bring in young people, new voters. the one candidate that can change the electoral votes come november. so we're really prepared for
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anything at this point. we're going to fight it all the way through and i can tell you mr. trump will be the republican nominee and the next president of the united states. >> do you think if it comes down to trump and cruz, he'll continue to debate with cruz? >> well, we'll have to see. mr. trump is looking forward to debating whomever. i think everyone has a lot of debate fatigue at this point. so ultimately mr. trump will make that decision. >> a final question, katrina, before i let you go. you heard jim acosta's report that a trump reporter sort of sucker punched a protester last night at a trump rally as he was walking out. that individual is now being charged with assault. what's the trump campaign's reaction? >> well, mr. trump -- and i'm really glad in that reporting that you did mention that the campaign goes out of their way to tell people at these events to not participate in things like that and to handle protesters gently and nicely and mr. trump himself has said that
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at many of these rallies. mr. trump does not condone anything like that. we don't know for a fact that this was a trump supporter. we've also been subject to having plants put into the audience as well. just to reassure everyone, this is not something that's condoned by the trump campaign. in fact it actually does a disservice to the other people who are there. >> hillary clinton just tweeted as a follow-up, i'll read it to you. this is what she said. she said this kind of behavior is repugnant. we set the tone for our campaigns. we should encourage respect, not violence. your response to that tweet from hillary clinton? >> well, and she's absolutely right, which is exactly what we do, what mr. trump himself personally does in these instances. as i said before, and it's been reported many times, even on cnn, that a lot of people coming to these rallies aren't necessarily trump supporters. >> katrina pierson, the national spokeswoman for the trump campaign, katrina, thanks very much for joining us. >> thanks, wolf.
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we're counting down to tonight's cnn republican presidential debate here at the university of miami. florida may be senator marco rubio's home state, but senator ted cruz says he's competing hard to win tuesday's primary here in florida. cnn correspondent sunlen serfaty is covering the cruz campaign for us and she's joining us right now near the debate stage.
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sunlen, trump says he wants to face senator cruz one on one, the senator wants the same thing, doesn't he? >> that's absolutely right, wolf. ted cruz's goal is really to push this race into a face-off with donald trump exclusively. put simply, he has been calling more or less on john kasich and marco rubio to get out of the race. a subtle message to them but a direct message no doubt. so a big goal for him here at this debate hall will be to present himself tonight as the most viable alternative to donald trump among all of them up there on the stage. it's been interesting to see ted cruz out on the campaign trail leading in today almost exclusively focused on donald trump. laser focused on drawing contrasts with him, only mentioning rubio and kasich in the vein of calling on their supporters to come to his campaign. he invites those supporters to come to his campaign, certainly sets up an interesting dynamic tonight. it will be interesting to see his approach, how he really treats rubio and kasich when he
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has more or less called for both of them to drop out, wolf. >> as you know, sunlen, donald trump likes to hit ted cruz for being unpopular, even among his republican colleagues in the u.s. senate. cruz today has a new response to that, right? >> that's right. his response came in the form of rolling out the endorsement of utah senator mike lee. this is his very first senate endorsement. so it certainly is notable and in part a response to that talking point of donald trump, hoping to put that talking point to death so to speak. mike lee appeared in the spin room here on the debate stage and talked about the party unifying behind senator cruz. here's what he had to say. >> i'm sending the signal that it's time to unite. that the time has finally come. the time is finally at hand when we as republicans need to unite behind one leader. >> interesting that mike lee was asked directly should marco
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rubio drop out of the race if he does not win here in florida on tuesday. he did not mibs words. he said yes, he should, and that he should come to senator ted cruz's campaign. so interesting that that message is coming from all facets, even the new ones of the cruz campaign. wolf. >> all right, thank you. joining us now, our chief political analyst, gloria borger, our chief national correspondent john king and our senior political kneea -- nia-malika henderson. he wants a softer tone. >> well, the answer to your question is not sure it's really doable but he does want a softer tone because i think he understands that it could make him look more presidential. he's the prohibitive front-runner right now. he could be the nominee after florida and ohio. he's got to start looking presidential. the question that i have is once he is attacked, and he will be attacked on this stage, i don't know if donald trump has it in him not to punch back.
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he's a guy who always says if i'm attacked, i'm going to punch back. and then the third question i have is the people who attack him, how are they going to do it? because they cannot make themselves look smaller. that's what happened to marco rubio last time on the stage. i don't think marco rubio wants to make that mistake again. >> we might be hearing more lyin' ted and little marco but this is an opportunity for cruz as well. >> it's an opportunity for cruz. he wants to say i'm the only guy who's got a chance. i'm the only guy within 100 delegates. i'm the only guy who has proven he can beat donald trump in a handful, half a dozen states. the problem is you have kasich and marco rubio who are making their last stand in this debate because their states, ohio for kasich, rubio here in florida, are up on tuesday and they're making their last stand. kasich needs to win at home to survive. rubio needs to win at home to survive. let's be realistic, if he doesn't win at home, the money will dry up.
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trump knows the stakes. florida and ohio, that's 165 of the 367 delegates at stake on tuesday. plus if you're winning in florida and ohio, you're probably also winning north carolina, probably also winning missouri. so trump understands this is a chance not mathematically but psychologically to lock it up and send a message to the establishment, i win. kasich has not attacked trump but he needs to win ohio so i think he'll be more assertive. he needs to be more a part of the debate tonight. rubio, i agree with gloria, he doesn't want to get back into the hands and other arguments, but this is his last stand. when you're backed up against a wall, you tend to be aggressive. >> i think trump may attack kasich because kasich is very close to him and in some polls above him in ohio. >> yeah, and he's been doing that already basically saying that kasich is an absentee senator. i think if you look on the air waves, you can say that the super pacs, rubio's super pac is going after kasich, for instance, and then trump is
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obviously going after marco rubio saying that he's the absentee senator for florida. so i think the stakes are high for all of these folks tonight. you have rubio coming in essential low saying whoever wins florida is going to be the gop nominee. polls show him lagging. can he -- can he have one debate performance -- >> does he have enough traction to win florida on tuesday? >> you know, i think that's the big question. and can a debate performance, however phenomenal it might be, is that enough to catapult him 16 points ahead of donald trump if you believe the polls. >> in the last round of primaries last tuesday night, there was a shift for rubio. and it used to be that the late deciders were heavily going to marco rubio. that is not the case anymore. the late deciders were going to ted cruz and john kasich more than marco rubio. and that may be an indication of things to come. once you lose momentum like this, it's really hard to get it back. it's not impossible. it's tough. >> there's early voting here in florida, john, as you know, and a lot of people have already
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voted. they haven't released the results of that. we'll see if there's a difference between the early voters and the same-day voters. >> and imagine if you're marco rubio and you come up just short and jeb bush gets a bunch of those early votes because jeb bush was in the race until just recently and had a very aggressive early voting program because it is part of the political culture here in florida. imagine if marco rubio falls a couple of thousand votes short and you see a big chunk of jeb bush votes that grossly outnumber that. but that's the way the system works and you've got to play by the rules in the system that you're in. >> if trump wins here in florida, in ohio, and it's winner take all in both of those states, is it basically over? >> it's hard for the other folks to make an argument that they can overtake trump and they should be the gop nominee. i think the sort of second best option for these folks is do they stay in and deny him the nomination. that seems to be the strategy of kasich at least. doesn't seem to necessarily be the strategy of marco rubio at this point, who looks like he's got a do-or-die situation here
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in florida. but they're running out of options, they're running out of time to stop trump and they have tried. they dumped a bunch of money on him in these super pac ads but so far he's still rolling. >> there's a lot of talk of what i call crubio, sort of a joint ticket effort. i don't know if that's possible at all. i also believe it's just as possible that trump, who has said he would like someone with a political experience, trump could say, okay you guys don't like me, let me tell you i'm going to pick so and so as my vice presidential nominee and kind of blunt that. trump is all about the art of the deal. well, if other folks are negotiating, i think he can too. >> let's take a break. there's more. we're counting down to this republican presidential debate here on the campus of the university of miami. much more when we come back. ♪ ♪
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welcome back. we're counting down cnn's coverage of tonight's critical republican presidential debate here at the university of miami. i'm joined by s.e. cupp, kayleigh mcenannie and ana navarro. kayleigh let me follow up on this controversial statement that donald trump said to anderson cooper in that interview last night about islam. listen to this. >> do you think islam is at war with the west? >> i think islam hates us.
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there's something -- there's something there -- there's a tremendous hatred there. there's a tremendous hatred. we have to get to the bottom of it. there is an unbelievable hatred of us. >> kayleigh, would he lying to revise that statement a bit, islam hates us? >> i think he did. 15 seconds later anderson went on to ask do you mean radical islam or islam and he said i mean radical islam. he's repeatedly said i have muslim friends, i'm not trying to indict the muslim faith. however, he's point out something i think our president fails to point out that there is a strain of radical islam that has taken over parts of the middle east and is operating openly in syria, iraq and libya and it's important to call that out. i think that's what donald trump was getting at. >> he should have initially said radical islam instead of just islam. >> i think he was meaning islam as an ideology. islam is a political code, sharia is a political code --
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>> it's a religion. >> not as a religion, i think he was meaning that portion of the koran. >> what impact in a republican contest do his comments have? >> i think it's devastating, disappointing and dangerous. the fact that donald trump needs someone like kayleigh to translate what he meant for a wider audience tells you everything you need to know. donald trump should be very careful when he talks about muslim americans and he should make those distinctions clear. we have muslims who put on the uniform of the united states of america and go and fight overseas for our freedom, for their freedom. and so to say islam hates us is sloppy, it's dangerous, it's offensive, it's divisive. i mean i could go on and on and on and on, but he's constantly -- he constantly goes there. and then his supporters say well, no, that is what he meant, this is what he meant and clean it up for audiences. >> s.e., i think most voters understand donald trump is not
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islamophobic. if you look at the guardian, a very respected british publication, they interviewed one of his muslim supporters who said donald trump is not our enemy. and he will protect moderate muslims like me. >> anecdotal evidence does not tell the entire picture. and when donald trump, if he gets to a general election, i don't think he's going to have the support of the muslim american community. >> there are a lot of moderate muslims who are as terrified of isis as of christians and are jews -- >> of course there are. >> and it does follow several weeks ago when donald trump called for a temporary ban on all muslims coming into the united states, which generated a lot, a lot of anger out there. >> it generated a lot of anger but also generated him some support, so i think he keeps doing this because it's been working for him. i would like for it to be devastating, as s.e. says, in a republican primary, but the truth is that there are factions inside the republican base that agree with him and he has not up to this point really suffered
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any damage for these absurd, ridiculous, outrageous, blanket statements he has been making since june 16th when he announc announced. this is just one more stripe on the zebra. whether you're talking about mexicans, whether you're talking about p.o.w.s, whether you're talking about muslims, it is one more stripe on the zebra, but he keeps doing is because he can. >> go ahead and respond. >> i think it's easy to broad swipe donald trump and say he is a racist, he is islamophobic and maybe these generalizations, but 49% of the gop who said that they would support donald trump, this was a cnn poll about a month ago, understand nuance, they understand this is a temporary ban, isolating a problem within the muslim faith until we figure out how to not let malik into our country legally on a k-1 fiance visa. >> let me play a clip. this is senator ted cruz. s.e., i want to play it for you and we'll get all of you to respond. well, we don't have the clip right now let me just tell you basically what senator ted cruz
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said about donald trump's supporters. he said donald does well with voters who have relatively low information. >> yeah. i don't think that's ever smart. it's never smart to criticize the voters that you ultimately hope to get. whether you agree with donald trump and his supporters is a separate thing, but clearly these are voters who are engaged. many of them for the first time and all thanks to donald trump. he's writtening o-- bringing ou new voters and it's not for ted cruz to judge the basis upon which those voters have decided on trump. his job is to convince them otherwise. >> what was your reaction? >> i agree with s.e. whether they are low information, high information, low education, high education, everybody has the same vote. and should this become a two-man race and should ted cruz become the clear alternative to donald trump and this go to a brokered convention, at some point we're going to need unity within this party and we're going to need to
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stop talking about divisions and about sublabels within the republican party and figure out how to have a broad message and a broad tent that we can all fit under, whether you have a high school degree or you have three ph.d.s to your name. >> i suspect a lot of the voters and millions already have voted for donald trump probably resent the notion that they are relatively low information voters. >> particularly coming from a guy who graduated from yale and princeton, it's a little much. >> it's a surprising statement from ted cruz. he's an outsider. it's surprising to hear him say something like this. >> we have much more to talk about, including marco rubio, a lot riding for him tonight at this republican presidential debate. we'll take a quick break and be right back. plan
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we're back with our political experts as we await the start of the cnn republican presidential debate here at the university of miami. it's the last debate before tuesday's winner take all primaries in both florida and ohio. and i want to read to you a little excerpt of what eric, a top mitt romney adviser four years ooh his campaign wrote today in the boston globe. you need three ingredients to be successful. money, organization and message. lacking all three, rubio should exit now to avoid an embarrassment in florida that could damage whatever he hopes to salvage of his political career. your reaction? >> first of all, you know, people assume that marco's future is in politics. i have never assumed that. i think that people are not used to folks who may want a life outside of politics and might
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actually think a career doesn't necessarily mean going from one political office to the other. there is no doubt that marco's campaign is hurting right now. i can tell you that i'm hearing it everywhere i go in miami. this debate is very important for him to be able to reset it. he needs to go on that stage and show grit, perseverance that he's in it to win it. he needs to make the electability argument. i've seen marco rebound before. the problem is he has no mathematical path left to the nomination. he's got to be hoping and praying that people can buy into the notion of a brokered convention. but i just don't buy the idea that quitting before florida is less embarrassing than fighting your heart out for your home state and then seeing how it turns out. i think you can't get scared out of this race for your home state four days away and go do what, suck your thumb? he quit a month ago.
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he didn't quit four days before the primary. >> kasich has a tough challenge in ohio. some have him up a little, down a little. trump starts calling kasich absentee governor. are we going to see him go more assertively against kasich? does he feel threatens, trump, by kasich? >>ing this is the big battleground. kasich has a 62% approval rating, one of the highest in the nation for any governor. to get at kasich, you have to levy those sort of attacks. he's an absentee governor. echoes something the columbus dispatch said. donald trump has to levy these points and talk about spending some of the criticisms of kasich in order to destabilize him. >> if trump wins florida and ohio, is it over? >> yes, for sure. that's why these contests tonight, this debate and our contests on tuesday are so important. everything is leading to this.
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it's do or die for ted cruz. it's definitely do or die for marco rubio. and i don't think kasich is really in play here. but, yeah. i think any rational person would say if trump gets florida and ohio -- >> and cruz would stay in and it would be a two-man battle. >> if donald trump wins florida and ohio, it's over. put a fork in them for rubio and kasich, but it is not over for ted cruz if he's a clear alternative until somebody gets to 1,237. until that happens, there is always a possibility of a brokered convention, which i wouldn't look forward to at all, but, you know, there are going to be a lot of people holding hope out for that. until you get to 1,237, it ain't over. >> cruz will have a huge delegate deficit if trump gets winner take all florida and ohio. it's just starting way behind. >> even cruz recognized a brokered convention would be perilous for the republican party.
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he's more open to an open convention. no matter what happens, if trump walks away with the most of the popular vote, it would be devasta devastating. >> we have much more. counting down to the start of this republican presidential debate here at the university of miami. much more of our coverage coming up. you both have a
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♪ no, you're not ♪ yogonna watch it! ♪tch it! ♪ ♪ we can't let you download on the goooooo! ♪ ♪ you'll just have to miss it! ♪ yeah, you'll just have to miss it! ♪ ♪ we can't let you download... uh, no thanks. i have x1 from xfinity so... don't fall for directv. xfinity lets you download your shows from anywhere. i used to like that song. happening now -- winner take all. the four remaining republican presidential candidates facing off tonight on cnn in their final debate ahead of the critical primaries next week that could make donald trump the inevitable nominee. what will his rivals do tonight
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to try to stop him. do or die. last chance for marco rubio to save the slumping campaign. a win in his home state of florida next tuesday seen as his only hope of staying in the race. with trump leading in the polls, will rubio go on the attack again tonight? last hope. ted cruz now positioned as the gop establishment's best alternative. picking up an endorsement from a fellow senator, but will the rest of the party rally around one of its most widely disliked members. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer in the debate hall where the candidates will soon take the stage. you're in "the situation room." we're live on the campus of the university of miami. we're counting down to tonight's cnn republican presidential debate. donald trump, ted cruz, marco rubio and john kasich in their
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last battle before five major primaries next tuesday that could shake up the gop race or leave donald trump the party's inevitable nominee. extremely high stakes for trump's rivals fighting to keep their campaigns alive and likely targeting trump tonight. ted cruz saying he's in a two-man race with trump and picking up a notable endorsement from mike lee of utah. so far he's the only u.s. senator backing cruz whose hard-line tactics have made him one of the most unpopular lawmakers on capitol hill. and there's new controversy tonight surrounding the trump campaign. after an african-american protester was punched in the case by a white trump supporter at a campaign rally. the 78-year-old man now charged with assault. let's get a preview of tonight's big detate. a potential game changer in one of the most unpredictable republican races. sunlen serfaty begins our coverage. what can we expect to see
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tonight? >> i'd expect to see a sense of urgency from many of the candidates up on this debate stage later tonight. this debate is coming at such a critical and pivotal time in the course of this campaign. this is the last debate before voters head to the poll in the winner take all states of florida and ohio. so crucial to so many of the candidates making their last pitch tonight. many camps will likely be looking to create that breakout moment for themselves to potentially breathe new life into their campaigns, specifically marco rubio and john kasich tonight. donald trump will be there right at center stage as the front-runner. to his right will be marco rubio and to his left ted cruz. likely much of the focus tonight on blunting trump's momentum going forward. a lot of heat directed likely at center stage. wolf? >> sunlen, you've been covering the cruz campaign extensively. what's the strategy from ted cruz tonight? >> it's all about pushing this into a two-man race on behalf of
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the cruz campaign. that's what their goal is to do. so what we'll likely see ted cruz up on the stage is to present himself at the most viable candidate that can be the alternative to donald trump. and this is most part what we've seen him do on the campaign trail largely ignoring two-fourths of the candidates. john kasich and marco rubio. he's been exclusively focused on taking down donald trump. i suspect we'll see a lot of that from him here tonight. wolf? >> sunlen, thank you. the front-runner donald trump is expecting a fresh barrage of attacks tonight. especially from marco rubio and ted cruz. he went after trump, rubio did, aggressively starting at the last debate. but trump returned blistering fire taking a toll on rubio's campaign. let's bring in jim acosta. jim, rubio's attempt to take on trump seemed to have backfired as it has. i must say for several of the other candidates. >> that's right. and donald trump likes to say that every time he's attacked it
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backfires on the person doing the attacking. he's still standing. donald trump for his part is saying he's expecting a softer debate tonight. but tell that to marco rubio and ted cruz. i talked to trump campaign manager. he tells me that they understand marco rubio's political life is on the line tonight. he will be more aggressive as this is perhaps the florida senator's last chance to shake up this race in front of millions of voters. we have heard rubio say in the last 24 hours that he now regrets poking fun at trump's appearance. a top rubio adviser said the florida senator will avoid those personal attacks but they still see trump's business record as fair game. that means more hits on trump university and so on. the other big front looming in this nomination battle is john kasich's home state of ohio. new polling showing the ohio governor may be moving ahead of trump in that state. that explains why trump called kasich an absentee governor last night in fayetteville, north carolina. we may hear more of that tomorrow morning from donald trump. he's scheduled a post-debate news conference.
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another example of how trump likes to shake the daily campaign narrative. if he suffers a setback tonight he can hit the reset tomorrow morning at the news conference, wolf. >> jim, we're also learning about an incident at a trump rally involving an attendee charged with assault. tell us what happened. >> that's right. this is not the first time we've talked about an incident at a trump rally. this is just the latest episaid of some violence breaking out at one of the events. last night we should show this to our viewers. his is video off of youtube of a protester being led out of trump's rally. as the protester is heading out of the arena, he is sucker punched. did not see this coming, by a trump supporter in the crowd. police say that trump supporter has been arrested, and we should also point out that trump has dismissed these scuffles that almost seem to happen on a daily basis at something that just happens from time to time considering the size of the crowds he draws. he gave that explanation at his
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news conference saturday night. we should point out the trump campaign does make an announcement before every rally saying please don't touch the protesters because they expect these protests to break out but, obviously, this one trump supporter was not listening to that plea from the campaign when he sucker punched that protester being led out of the arena last night. >> he's now been charged, as you say. thanks, jim acosta. joining us republican congressman chris collins of new york. he's supporting donald trump. congressman, thanks very much for joining us. i know you said you are endorsing trump because you believe donald trump, in your words, has clearly demonstrated that he has both the guts and the fortitude to bring jobs back to the united states. take on isis and make america great again. but what has he done to demonstrate that, for example, he understands the challenge isis poses. he doesn't very often provide specifics. specifics at all when asked. >> well, wolf, again, thanks for inviting me on to the show.
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i'm a strong trump supporters but he has very clearly stated he's going to secure our borders, defeat isis, get our jobs back and make america proud again as we stand tall against russia, north korea and iran. as to some of the specifics, we all know that the threat that isis is to the united states of america. we've seen the terrible videos of beheadings and other atrocities that they hate our way of life. they hate the way most of the world is living. so i don't think you have to get into a lot of specifics. for all americans to realize how b bad isis is. and the strength of our military, we can take isis out but we have a president who has no strategy whatever. he's never articulated a strategy. he's tied the hands of many of our troops in how we're dealing with these monsters. so i have every confidence and i think most trump supporters do as well. as president of the united states, donald trump will defeat
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isis, and he will stand up to the ayatollah, stand up to -- >> congressman, let -- what specifically would he do if he were the commander in chief to destroy isis? >> first of all, as the commander in chief, i know we'd have a strategy that would involve other nations, as well as his advisers. but absent other nations joining us, our air power is superior. and mr. trump has stated, i think fairly clearly, he's going to take isis out. and we have just not been as forceful, frankly, as we could be. we have a commander in chief that's not a forceful leader. he has no strategy. it starts with strategy. one thing i can tell you about a chief executive of a successful business. strategy drives the day. >> but would he just continue what president obama is doing, manned air strikes against isis? unmanned drone air strikes?
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having advisers there, working with locals? there are international partners, if you will. would he, for example, move u.s. ground forces into iraq and syria to try to retake mosul and try to destroy raqqah, the isis capital in syria? >> well, wolf, it's not my place to speak for the president of the united states, commander in chief donald trump. that will be for he and his advisers and his secretary of defense and his chiefs. but i can tell you, myself and many of trump's supporters know of all the candidates standing on the stage tonight, and certainly in comparison to hillary clinton and bernie sanders, there is one man that will defeat isis as commander in chief, and that is donald trump. >> would you as a u.s. congressman support ground troops moving in to destroy isis? >> well, as none of us want to see our ground troops in another conflict. all of us are saying we're going to need advisers and with that said, we have to defeat the
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monstrosity of isis and i would defer to other experts in coming back to congress with what their plans are. and at some point in time, you have to say, all options are on the table. you don't tie your hands behind your back as you are negotiating with monsters like isis. >> because most of the experts, as you know, congressman, they say air strikes can degrade but they won't completely destroy. the only way to destroy isis is to send troops, whether u.s. troops or foreign troops or others. you have to get in there on the ground, basically go house to house. but we'll leave that issue on that point. another thing -- >> well, wolf, we also -- >> go ahead, congressman. >> well, i was going to say, it's also getting the local, the kurds and the others involved. arming those forces that are on the ground. it's their territory. we've done a deplorable job
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under obama in helping what could be our allies with boots on the ground. not american boots. other boots on the ground. and ultimately, that's what i know america would prefer. having the boots on the ground from those other nations. it's their country. having them as the ground force. >> he also, donald trump, blasts companies for moving outside of the united states, manufacturing products outside of the united states. you've mentioned that you want him and he wants to bring jobs back. as you know, some of his products are, in fact, manufactured outside of the united states. the ties, some of the suits made in china. some of the dress shirts made outside the united states. the accusation against donald trump is he's being hypocritical. he's willing to manufacture products outside the united states and bring them back to the u.s., but he says that shouldn't happen. your response. >> well, what it is, china and mexico both are cheating through manipulation of currency, a country like china that steals
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our intelectual property, doesn't live by the same labor and environmental laws as we do. they have this built-in advantage which is not fair trade and you have to at some point in time they we're not going to tolerate that. but as long as we have a president and a government that allows that cheating to occur, private sector business, who is in -- they are in business to make money, are going to go where it's cheaper. we need to have barriers as needed to level the playing field if that's what it takes in order to have it no longer a financial incentive for people to go over there and take advantage of lower wages in a country that steals our intellectual property, manipulates currency and does not live by the same environmental and regulatory burdens. the government has got to level that playing field or we're going to keep losing jobs. the theft of jobs, and i believe donald trump as president is going to sit down and set those standards where they're not going to be able to cheat any
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longer. >> so as long as the cheating goes on, do you think all of trump ties, suits, shoes should be made here in america? >> no, i do not think you can tell a private sector business person to put his business at 30% or 40% price differential when unfortunately that's the unlevel playing field this president has put our country in. we need to stop the cheating. but a private company is in business. this is a capitalist country. you can't say otherwise. they are in business to make money. in fact, any public corporation that does anything to disadvantage their shareholders, they have a fiduciary responsibility to make money, and part of it would be going where costs are low. but they are low because they cheat. they don't play by the same standards. i don't think you can say anything is wrong with donald trump in that as a private sector businessperson, which he is. thank god the others have no experience. we have a chief executive, not a chief politician in donald trump. he knows how they are cheating
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but also as a private business guy he has an obligation, frankly, to go to where the costs are lowest. that's what a chief executive in the private sector does. >> congressman collins, we have more to discuss. i want to take a quick break. we're counting down to the start of this historic republican presidential debate here on the campus of the university of miami. we'll be right back. sales event is on. with extraordinary offers on the exhilarating is... the thrilling gs... and the powerful rc coupe. ♪ this is the pursuit of perfection.
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oh, look at you, so great to see you! none of this works. come on in.
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believe he was talking about radic
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radical. >> the civilized world when we're talking about isis and some of the other al qaeda in the other radical islamic extremists, they absolutely hate us and that was a narrative i understand has been clarified. it's radical islam, not islam which, obviously, we know there are a lot of people that practice that faith that do not feel that way. >> i'm sure many in your own district in western new york as well. let's talk about the debate tonight. donald trump says he doesn't like these debates. he skipped one in the past. what kind of donald trump do you think will be at the debate tonight? >> well, all of us would hope we'd see a debate of a little more substance. getting right down to some level
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of detail. you have some folks tonight who are very desperate for wins and absent those wins in florida and ohio, you'll see folks dropping out. one thing we know about donald trump if you punch him, he's going to punch back. let's hope that doesn't start. i don't think he would start that fight but i think we also know that if there are others punching at donald trump tonight, you'll see some punching back. as much as we'd like to see a more substantive debate, we're all going to see in about two hours. >> congressman collins, you're right. donald trump has made it clear, you hit him, he hits you back and sometimes more ferociously, if you will. chris collins, thanks very much for joining us. >> happy to be with you, wolf. any time. just ahead, the pressure clearly tonight on marco rubio. is it do or die for the florida senator? florida primary just five days away. we'll go inside his strategy. and who has the most to gain
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tonight? we're going to talk about all of that and a lot more as we count down to the cnn republican presidential debate. at mfs investment management, we believe in the power of active management. by debating our research to find the best investments. by looking at global and local insights to benefit from different points of view. and by consistently breaking apart risk to focus on long-term value. we actively manage with expertise and conviction.
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high stakes in tonight's cnn republican presidential debate. and now just about two hours away, the pressure especially
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intense on senator marco rubio. his campaign has lost momentum in recent days. the florida senator must win his home state's primary next tuesday to remain viable. let's talk about all of this wither cnn political commentators. ana navarro, republican strategist kevin madden, trump supporter kayleigh mcenany. the strategy for the republican candidates tonight, what do you think they need to do? >> one thing i'm going to be looking for is whether marco rubio is -- still goes really hard after donald trump. i think he's expressed regret for going after donald trump in a very personal way, but i think he's going to continue to go after him on the substance. he can't be schizophrenic about his strategy. has to keep up with the hard attack he's been on for the past month. also whether ted cruz begins to peel away some marco rubio supporters as he presents himself to voters at the best, most viable alternative to donald trump, versus going right
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at donald trump. those are some of the dynamucs i'll be watching. >> cruz says it's essentially a two-man race, cruz and trump. what does cruz need to do tonight? what kooind of strategy do you think he'll use? >> he needs to walk a fine, fine line. on the one hand he doesn't want to antagonize marco rubio and his supporters because he's seeking this unity party. marco rubio saying after tuesday, if rubio loses, what we need to do is unify and make this a two-man race and let's get behind said. on the one hand he can't antagonize rubio. can't really go after him directly. on the other hand, he needs to convince people to vote for him instead because he's clearly made the decision to play in florida, not for the purpose of winning florida but for the purpose of knocking rubio out of the race. >> he thinks once rubio is out -- >> it becomes a two-man race. >> he'll have a better chance. still have john kasich to worry about. kayleigh, you think trump needs
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to.two specific points in order to be successful. >> with regard to rubio. we're in florida. he needs to win florida. of course, ohio as well. with rubio, he hasn't been hit on social security. that's huge in florida. we're in a state where there are more retirees than anywhere in the country. he wants to raise the retirement age for younger people. has also considered not putting the cost of living adjustment in there for social security. look at the audience and say marco rubio promised all of you he'd stand against amnesty. he did not. and say marco rubio also reneged on his obligations in the u.s. senate. he wasn't there to vote against the omnibus bill. he needs to paint kasich as an absentee government and the cato institute gave you one of the worst ratings ever on spending. how do you address that, kasich? >> marco needs to get under trump's skin which he did when he brought up the undocumented polish workers that workod the trump sites. but i think marco did something last night which came across very authentic and genuine.
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maybe he tries it on this stage. he admitted that going into the gutter to go after donald trump, that going in with those personal attacks that made him look like a schoolyard bully did not work. he admitted that it had been embarrassed his children. i think that was a -- refreshing admission of a mistake by a politician. a very human moment. and i think he might try it on the stage today. i hope he does. >> because it's not often you hear politicians basically acknowledge they made a mistake. >> it's not. and it is important, i think, for him to acknowledge that.
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i do think he can make the
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argument that he's electable. the other three would lose to hillary clinton. i think he just has got to show his heart and fight his heart out. he's got to leave it all on that debate stage. people have got to see that he still has it in him. voters can smell a dying campaign. right now marco's campaign is wounded. it looks like one of those old stale hotel lobbies that get a funny smell. he has got to show that he's still in this. he's got the heart, the grit, the strength, the perseverance. that he's going to do it. he's going to show up there, all of him with all of his enthusiasm and he's got to have a great debate. he cannot afford to have a lukewarm, mediocre debate. tonight marco needs to bat it out of the ballpark. he needs to convince floridians to vote for him, that voting for him is not throwing away their vote. >> do you think he can do that? >> i do. i've seen marco rubio. he happened to travel with governor romney during the 2012 campaign. >> you work forward governor romney. >> when i worked for him and saw
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him on the campaign trail, big audiences and small audiences embrace expectations. be that strong visionary leader that so many people feel is the -- is exactly what the republican party needs. especially to serve as a contrast to hillary clinton who has been associated with the last 25 years of american politics. that's the marco rubio that has to show up and fight and make his case. >> we saw him rebound after a disastrous debate and election result in new hampshire. and come back strong in south carolina. marco needs to show that he can rebound again. it becomes a harder sell as this goes along. he's got the ability to do it. >> stand by. more to discuss. let's take another quick break. we're counting down to the republican presidential debate here in miami. much more right after this. it took joel silverman years to become a master dog trainer.
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marco rubio has voiced regret for some of the personal comments he made about donald trump in recent days. personal attacks, the kourpt attacks. certainly haven't helped at the polls. our senior political reporter manu raju is in what we call the spin room at the university of miami. you have some details of rubio's strategy for tonight. what are you learning? >> well, wolf, you think that's marco rubio is going to lay off donald trump. you have to think again. what i'm hearing from rubio officials is that he's going to really make the case to florida voters that this is the state
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that can stop donald trump. he's going to say that he's the only one that can beat donald trump and a vote for john kasich or ted cruz is essentially a vote for donald trump. watch for marco rubio to try to draw donald trump out on policy issues. we started to see him do that in the houston debate you moderated, wolf. a very effective line of attack. and a con artist. someone who uses questionable business dealings. that is something he plans to raise as well. that's not it. he wants to remind voters why they voted for him in 2010, what's they liked about him. and in addition to say he's the most electable republican. that's something he's been saying all along that he can unite the republican party in this do or die state. they really need to penetrate or it could be the end of the road if he does not win this state, wolf. >> he's got to be at the top of his game tonight. thanks, manu. the republican presidential debate less than two hours away. how are the candidates
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performing? how will they perform tonight? that could certainly determine who wins the florida primary along with every single one of florida's 99 delegates. let's bring in our experts. executive editor mark preston, political analyst ron brownstein, and rebecca berg, a national political reporter at realclear politics. also ryan lizza, a washington correspondent for the new yorker magazine. who seems to come in tonight, mark, among these four republican candidates with the most confidence? >> no doubt about it it's ted cruz. he picked up some victories over this past week. some of them were surprising. and the fact is he's making the argument that he is the true alternative to donald trump. marco rubio has been the most disappointing candidate up to this point. and john kasich is hanging on by a thread. confidencewise, ted cruz coming in. let's not discount donald trump. he believes if he comes in and is able to win florida and ohio on tuesday, he thinks it's over.
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>> i'm -- i think cruz is also, and the remarkable thing about this race is, donald trump who is a plurality front-runner. this point in 2008 john mccain was moving up. mitt romney toward 45%. donald trump is staying around 35%. that's a share of the total vote. out of all the votes cast so far, 45%. he's not taking that next leap into near haimajority status. the problem is nobody is broad enough. ted cruz lost in mississippi, another state he probably should have won. a santorum state or huckabee state. he continues to struggle among those voters who are not evangelicals. ohio, north carolina and missouri are so critical. once you get past that you are down to very few states where evangelicals are close to half the vote. >> those states donald trump on tuesday, he's well on his way. >> he is well on his way. we're looking at ohio and
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florida. also very important states because these are winner take all contests. and especially florida. it's such a big delegate prize. what republicans are thinking at this point is this race is not over even if donald trump wins ohio and florida. the delegate map certainly wouldn't be in anti-trump republicans favor. however it would still be possible to push thus tune open convention and ron mentioned he's been to this point a plurality winner. not trying to share the vote a front-runner would or should. he has had that advantage. >> a limited catch-22 mark and i have talked about. the forces opposed to trump need rubio and case toikasich need t. if they win, they stay in and they divide the vote further. >> let me ask ryan lizza, if trump were to win ohio and florida, maybe kasich and marco rubio would drop out, but cruz isn't going anywhere. then it becomes a two-man race.
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what happens then? >> i think one of the threads through this conversation is, you know, the fact he's a 35% plurality, not a majority nominee right now or front-runner. the two sides are hardening, right? the pro-trump forces are hardening. they aren't moving to any of the other candidates but the anti-trump forces, the people saying they'll never accept him as the nominee are hardening. so you are not going to get other people out of the race. you're not going to get the establishment giving up on denying him the nomination until he is standing on that podium in cleveland accepting, you know, giving his acceptance speech. i think both sides have hardened. you're not seeing like 2008 or 2012 when mccain and romney started to pull away with the race and you heard voices of the establishment say let's pull together and concentrate on the democrats. that's not happening now and i doubt very much it will happen through the summer. >> let's talk a little bit about
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ohio right now. the latest cnn/orc poll, and i'll put it up on the screen. trump 41, kasich 35, cruz 15. rubio at only 7%. winner take all ohio next tuesday. other polls show kasich slightly. it could be very close there. >> ohio is a very interesting state because it is almost half the voters last time were evangelical christians and a major ut were blue collar whites. where donald trump has really put this race, put the other candidates in his rearview mirror is he's broken that hold on those blue collar evangelicals. he beat ted cruz among them in both states this week in mississippi and michigan. that's what allowed him to keep it close. if kasich can get through ohio and maintain his viablity, a lot of what comes next is better for him. a lot of the coastal states coming up, more moderate where he could have a little more purchase as the oolalternative trump as opposes to cruz.
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>> some interesting poll numbers here in florida where we are, a cnn/orc poll. we asked likely republican candidates who they are likely to support? 67% are already decided. 12% said they are leaning one way. 21% said they are still deciding presumably what happens on the stage behind us tonight could help them make a final decision. the question is, how will they move? >> that's why this is such a critical night for marco rubio because he needs to shift the direction of this race. right now it's not a direction that's good for his campaign. it seems to be on the verge of collapse if not already collapsing or collapsed. he needs to reassure voters he has a place in this race that he is not on the decline. and that he has something to offer the republican field and that he's not just playing spoiler in this state. that's what he's going to try to do tonight. it's still very difficult, wolf, because this is not a state that everyone goes and votes on election day. there's a lot of early voting in florida.
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many people have already cast their ballots and so their minds can't be changed. but that 20% that's still deciding, that's going to be marco rubio's target teeonight. >> a lot of people have voted already in florida. a lot of people, they have early voting in this state. that could have an impact. >> the rubio folks are hoping it helps them. the problem with that is, could some of them have voted for jeb bush who is out of the race? so marco rubio's future in many ways can be determined in the next five or six days. if he loses florida, i'm not of the mind-set he can never run. if ted cruz were to come out of nowhere and marco rubio were to come in third. that would be devastating. >> ryan, what do you think the strategy for these four candidates on the stage behind us today is going to be? are they going to come out swinging or will they be more reserved? >> i think rubio is going to attract himself by swinging wildly from a policy oriented
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message to those few days when he sort of became a stand-up comedian and just did anti-trump jokes and is now saying he sort of regrets it. and so there's sort of this al gore-like question of which marco rubio are you going to get on that stage tonight. and honestly, trump has sort of rattled him to make him sort of swing back and forth between those two strategies. but, look. trump is the front-runner. you have to go at the front-runner if you're going to win the race. >> go ahead, rebecca. you wanted to weigh in. if trump comes out swinging if all of them come out swinging, who wins? >> well, that's the question, right? i think marco rubio does need to measure his attacks a little bit more. he came out this week and started sorstart ed sort of apologizing for the rhetoric, the way he mocked trump's hair and hand. the other candidates are more focused attacks on donald trump on his record, business
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dealings, business failings, in the vain of what we've seen from these groups like our principals pact that has been attacking him on the air. we'll see. >> one thing that's really striking is with the victories in michigan and mississippi, trump re-establishing his momentum toward the nomination. every warning light on the dash board in terms of the general election is blinking red. the nbc/"wall street journal" said he had the most favorable/unfavorable. key groups in the democratic coalition, millennials, minorities, college educated whites. he has un -- he is strong within the republican coalition as a plurality front-runner but many things that made him popular in that have dug a deep hole with groups he'll need in the general election. the republicans in this odd position of a guy who is on the brichk brink of a nomination but enormous challenges.
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>> we heard ted cruz say that trump is perform willing because he's appealing to low-information got millions o voters already who might resent the fact they're being called low information voters. >> right. and what exactly did he mean by that? was he saying they're smart, they're stupid, or they're not tuning into donald trump? ted cruz, his appeal right now is he is the true conservative. the interview that he did was very interesting where he made those remarks. he did it with david brody. >> a christian broadcaster. >> christian broadcasting network. they go to david brody. he does a very good job. trump rather. cruz was sending a message across to voters, social conservatives that he's leading to trump. cruz has a problem, a math
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problem, as he moves into april and may. but still he says that he is the conservative alternative. >> people are beginning to come into this debate hall here on the campus of the university of miami. it's going to be very full very soon, but you can see people arriving right now. a hot ticket here in miami. ryan, the latest donald trump comments on islam, how do you think they'll play in these republican contests? >> to be totally honest, he's been pretty consistent and anti-islam since the beginning of this campaign. he's called for a ban on anyone of the muslim faith coming into this country and when he did that, his poll numbers went up. why do religious conservative support trump? the issue of islam among a lot of evangelicals is more important these days than the
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traditional social issues like abortion or same-sex marriage. to a lot of people what sounds like bigotry is something that is apparently appealing in donald trump when he talks about islam that way. it's something that i hear a lot when i go to republican rallies and i'm talking to the most socially conservative voters in trying to figure out why they support someone who is not religious like them. >> more people arriving here at the debate hall on the campus of the university of miami. let's take a quick break. much more as we await the start of this historic republican presidential debate. i think it landed last tuesday. one second it's there. then, woosh, it's gone. i swear i saw it swallow seven people. seven. i just wish one of those people could have been mrs. johnson. [dog bark] trust me, we're dealing with a higher intelligence here. ♪
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we've got breaking news. multiple sources now telling cnn that dr. ben carson will endorse donald trump tomorrow morning at a 9:00 a.m. news conference in palm beach. dr. carson will endorse we're now being told by multiple sources donald trump. ryan liza is with us. ryan, this is a significant endorsement. dr. ben carson, he has a lot of supporters in the republican community. >> we were just talking about evangelicals and leaders in that movement. if you look at the issues that ben carson has talked about historically, they probably line up a little bit closer with ted cruz andsaying, no, ted cruz is not the candidate of social conservatives, donald trump is. i'm not a believer that endorsements matter all that
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much, but this is pretty significant. he was consistently getting double digits in the polls. he has a huge base of supporters out there. his favorability ratings in the republican primaries have always been very strong. he's well liked. a little surprising considering how hard donald trump went at ben carson, mocking his famously earlier in the race. a little surprising ben carson has turned the other cheek and put all that behind me. i'll be eager to hear the back story of how trump courted carson to make this happen. >> we'll certainly hear it tomorrow morning at that news conference. it's going to be at mara lago in palm beach. i assume it'll help trump here in florida, but also probably north carolina, ohio, missouri, illinois, elsewhere as well,
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right? >> endorsements are important for trump. less so for some of the other candidates frankly, but trump is sort of his own island, right? he doesn't have a lot of elite support. he doesn't have a lot of support among republican validators. that's why the chris christie endorsement was important. someone as popular as carson is in the party stepping forward and saying he's okay with donald trump, i think they matter for a candidate like trump who is obviously so nontraditional and has so much opposition among so many pockets of the republican party. at the same time, maybe not terribly surprising because carson another outsider would have been a little unusual for carson to pack one of the remaining senators or politicians in the race. >> yeah. i'm sure ted cruz deeply
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disappointed and marco rubio deeply disappointed. cnn has confirmed from multiple sources that ben carson will endorsement donald trump tomorrow morning. "erin burnett outfront" picks up our coverage right now. next, our countdown to cnn's republican presidential debate tonight. the stakes could not be higher for the four remaining candidates in what could be the most crucial debate so far. sources telling cnn ben carson will endorse trump, a major moment in this campaign, a major boost for donald trump with conservatives and evangelical voters. the most sought after endorsement in this state. my guest tonight former governor rick scott. let's go "outfront." >> good evening, i'm erin burnett. welcome tonight to a very

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